Friday, May 18, 2012 at 9:45 a.m.
It didn't take long for the business community to come running to the defense of Herschel Vinyard.
Free Market Florida, a self-described "unapologetic advocate for the principles of the free market," on Thursday issued a press release saying that the Environmental Protection Agency should look for conflicts of interest in its own building before going after Florida's environmental officials.
The statement follows news that the EPA is probing whether Vinyard, secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, lied on his resume or violated conflict-of-interest clauses within the federal Clean Water Act. (Click here to catch up on the Vinyard dilemma.)
To get its point across, the group listed several EPA officials and their previous, environmental-minded employers.
For instance, Glenn Paulson, chief scientist with the agency, formerly worked for the Natural Resource Defense Council. Then there's Bob Perciasepe, deputy administrator with the EPA, who previously worked for the Audubon Society.
Free Market Florida refers to the Audubon Society, NRDC, and similar groups as "environmental litigation groups" with a "clear financial stake in the outcome of major permitting battles."
One could reason that people who work for groups such as the Audubon Society and NRDC are also concerned about the environment being constantly crapped on and moved to the EPA in order to, you know, help stop companies from continuing to use the ocean as their personal cesspool.
Jerry Phillips, an attorney and director of the Florida chapter of PEER -- one of the environmental groups that sparked the EPA's investigation into Vinyard -- says Free Market Florida's position is "untenable, to be kind." He also points out that group doesn't cite any federal laws or regulations prohibiting such employment at the EPA because they don't exist.
Phillips also notes that there's significant industry influence over at the EPA, which Free Market Florida doesn't make mention of.
In fact, when talking to Phillips for the first story, he expressed a fair amount of frustration over how long the EPA has taken to get around to the Vinyard investigation.
We sent an email to Free Market Florida, which is a "project of Americans for Limited Government," but didn't hear back. There's no phone number on its website, only links to sign up for its newsletter.
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